2019年11月12日 星期二

On Politics Media Watch: Inside the Impeachment War Rooms

The impeachment battle will be seen on TV. But it will be fought online.

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Nick Corasaniti, your host on Tuesdays for our coverage of all things media and messaging.

A programming note: The first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday. We’ll have live video and analysis from our reporters on NYTimes.com and in the NYTimes app.

And our Impeachment Briefing newsletter will bring you a complete wrap-up at the end of the day.

But first, read this ….

The Trump campaign’s advertising focus was far from impeachment Tuesday.Trump campaign

On the eve of the first public impeachment hearing, all seemed quiet on the digital front.

The Trump campaign’s prolific and expansive Facebook advertising machine was focusing instead on Thanksgiving cards. Priorities USA, the major Democratic super PAC, had no active Facebook ads. The Republican National Committee zeroed in on Saturday’s runoff election for governor in Louisiana. The Democratic National Committee was running a smattering of ads on impeachment, but it was hardly the only topic.

Wednesday, however, will not be as quiet.

In the modern political arena, the battle for public opinion is won and lost online. Campaigns staff rapid response teams to put out real-time reactions on Twitter and Facebook. Reporters’ email inboxes are inundated (on any given debate night I receive well over 100 emails).

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The digital “war room” isn’t necessarily new, though with each election cycle the parties’ online presence grows more sophisticated. And rarely have the stakes been as high as in a public presidential impeachment inquiry, only the third in modern United States history.

At President Trump’s campaign headquarters, about 15 staff members will hunker down in their war room, ready to clip videos from the hearing to post on social media and send to reporters, criticizing testimony they deem harmful. The Trump campaign also relies on an exceptionally loyal network of supporters with large social media followings, from conservative media outlets to social media influencers, to help amplify its messaging.

“It’s going to be a media circus, sure, and we’re ready for that,” said Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for the Trump campaign. He said his war room had been battle tested during the release of the Mueller report, which investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election and ties between Moscow and Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The Trump campaign’s defense efforts will be augmented and amplified by the Republican National Committee. But the committee is also planning to turn up criticism of potentially vulnerable House Democrats in swing districts who have supported the impeachment inquiry, a campaign it calls “Stop the Madness,” which it’s backing with more than $10 million in advertising.

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Both the Trump campaign and its Republican allies plan to push a single, central message: that Mr. Trump’s conversations with Ukraine were legitimate attempts to root out corruption.

While the impeachment inquiry has undoubtedly dealt some political damage to the president and his re-election effort, his campaign has also reveled in the fund-raising opportunity it provides. According to Mr. Murtaugh, on the day the House voted to endorse the impeachment inquiry, the campaign raised $3 million online.

On the Democratic side, the Democratic National Committee is planning to staff its 30-person response team well before the hearing gets underway, pushing out “what to watch for” lists to reporters and beginning a public character defense of William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine and the first witness scheduled to testify on Wednesday. Democrats anticipate that Republicans will try to criticize him if he offers damning testimony like he did last month in a closed-door hearing.

Democrats are also building up a file of old video clips showing how Republican members of Congress talked about President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, ready to publish anything that contradicts statements they may make in the coming days. Democrats used a similar strategy after the release of the Mueller report.

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And in an effort to combat the vast and loud Trump surrogate network online, the D.N.C. has been using “DM rooms,” or private group chats on Twitter, to coordinate the response among surrogates by sharing video clips, statements, fact-checks and more.

Most of the time, the goal for any digital war room is to influence the discussion both in the mainstream media and on social media.

But another measure of a successful digital response is simply to “flood the zone” with information, particularly when on defense; if there’s too much content and noise during a live event, it can help to prevent a particularly damaging moment from cutting through.

Needless to say, it will be a rambunctious and contentious day on social media.

Drop us a line!

We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

Ad of the week: Biden focuses on foreign policy

Biden campaign
Biden campaign

It’s a central tenet of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s argument as a presidential candidate: He says his time in the Senate and the Obama White House has given him unparalleled experience in the foreign policy arena, and he boasts personal relationships with many world leaders.

But until today, that subject has been largely absent from his television advertising. Now, his campaign is rolling out a new ad juxtaposing its view of Mr. Biden’s standing on the world stage with President Trump’s.

The message

Not unlike a Trump campaign ad, the Biden ad opens by painting a dire picture of “our world set on edge.” But it quickly turns to the culprit: “an erratic, unstable president.” The first half of the ad is in gray scale, casting a pall over images of protests and of Mr. Trump pictured with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The ad then switches to full color, with images of Mr. Biden addressing troops, speaking at international conventions and walking White House corridors with President Barack Obama. The scenes provide the visual backdrop as the narrator praises Mr. Biden as “tested, and trusted, around the world.”

The takeaway

As Mr. Biden finds his front-runner status under siege not just from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on his left flank, but also from Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the more moderate lane, he is turning to a bullet point on his resume that he says sets him apart in the race: a decades-long career in foreign policy.

It’s an area his campaign is beginning to focus intently on. The ad, which is part of a $4 million ad buy in Iowa and is also running on Hulu, is the latest example. In addition, the campaign on Tuesday released a list of endorsements from 133 foreign policy experts and former advisers.

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Thanks for reading. On Politics is your guide to the political news cycle, delivering clarity from the chaos.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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